CSU, Chico News

Sociologist Receives Mayor’s Award During Volunteer Appreciation Week

Date: 04-28-2010

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

Cynthia Siemsen, chair of the Department of Sociology, California State University, Chico, was among those presented a City of Chico Mayor’s Award on April 20 during National Volunteer Appreciation Week. As the result of an assignment she gave to a sociology class, students contributed more than 370 volunteer hours to the Torres Shelter.

Mayor Ann Schwab chose to tie this year’s awards to the Community/University Book in Common program, which featured “The Soloist,” by journalist Steve Lopez. The program sparked dozens of events focusing on the homeless population in our community. The Mayor’s Awards recognized individuals who made significant contributions to organizations focusing on hunger, homelessness and mental illness.

Michael and Janine Reale, creators of Run for Food, a Thanksgiving Day run/walk and Bob Preston, membership chair of Butte County’s National Alliance on Mental Illness and a member of the Mental Health Services Act Housing Committee, also received a Mayor’s Award.

Mayor Schwab recognized Siemsen for her Book in Common assignment that taught social theory through hands-on experience while providing meaningful community service. “The students will take what they have learned through service with them for the rest of their lives,” said Schwab.

“The students in Sociology 301, fall 2009 were phenomenal,” said Siemsen. “They put their hearts into the project, with an interest for serving the homeless population of Chico that I never imagined would take hold. Because of their enthusiasm and success, next year’s Sociology 301 courses will take part in the same service learning activity. Even though we will move on to a new Book In Common, the issues raised by Steve Lopez’s ‘The Soloist’ will not go away.”

Siemsen incorporates service learning whenever possible into her courses. Besides the homeless project for which she received this award, students in her Sociology of Life Course class have spent hundreds of hours recording the life histories of Chico’s senior citizens in partnership with PASSAGES Adult Resources Center and CAVE.

Siemsen is the co-author of the article “’Doing Gender’ as Canon or Agenda” in the journal Gender & Society (February 2009), the author of the book “Emotional Trials: The Moral Dilemmas of Women Defense Attorneys” (Northeastern University Press, 2004), and is under contract for her next book, “The Black Gavel,” a social historical work on African American judges. Siemsen received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.